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Friday, 1 June 1984
Page: 2375


Senator ZAKHAROV —I address my question to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. I have been contacted by a number of constituents who have been made anxious by rumours that the war widows pension will be more difficult to obtain after the passage of the Veterans Entitlement Bill later this year. Can the Minister inform the Senate of any changes proposed in that Bill which relate to war widows benefits and whether there is any reason for war widows and their families to be concerned?


Senator GIETZELT —There have been a number of rumours about the Government's intention in respect of both the Repatriation Amendment Bill, which relates to changes in the determining system, and the Veterans Entitlement Bill, which is scheduled for consideration in the next session of Parliament. A number of those rumours are without foundation. I find particularly galling one that has been circulated which suggests that there is going to be some change to the status of war widows and the capacity to qualify for the war widows pension. I can categorically refute the rumour that unfortunately has been circulated within some sections of the veterans' community that the Veterans Entitlement Bill will be to the detriment of the war widow. In fact, the Veterans Entitlement Bill will remove a long-standing discrimination in the Repatriation Act. The main area of concern, naturally, to war widows is that their entitlements are going to be placed under any threat. These rumours create unnecessary anxiety and concern. The current legislation provides that the war widows pension of a widow who remarries-and that happens on quite a number of occasions-is, after a short period, cancelled.

The Government has taken the view-and I think there will be all-party support for this view-that the war widows pension is a compensation arrangement similar to that paid to spouses under most compensation schemes. Nobody has suggested that compensation should be taken from people when they remarry. So, in the light of that approach, I think it is appropriate that the war widows benefit be brought into line with benefits provided under other schemes. That is why we will provide in the Veterans Entitlement Bill that a war widow who remarries will in no way be discriminated against in respect of her capacity to receive a war widow pension.